Returning to 1 Timothy today, recall that one of the chief problems Timothy faced in Ephesus was the presence of false teachers who advocated some form of spiritual elitism. Their focus on “myths and endless genealogies” and other “vain discussions” (1:3–4) assumed that people need a kind of secret knowledge to interpret Scripture properly. These “teachers” needed correction and the Ephesian Christians needed to hear apostolic instruction in order that they would know how to properly live as believers. So Paul wrote to Timothy, providing guidelines on the proper way to read God’s Word (vv. 5–11) and expressing gratitude for divine grace (vv. 12–20) so that Timothy would know how to stand for the truth of the gospel in his difficult situation.
The right response to this problem, Paul tells us in today’s passage, involves praying for “all people” (2:1). Spiritual elitism emphasizes the well-being of a select few, but true Christianity seeks the good of all. Believers do not only seek to tell an elite group about the good news of Jesus Christ, nor do they ask for the Father to show benevolence only to His children. Our desire is to see every person come to the knowledge of the truth and live a life of repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
This is especially true when it comes to leaders, even when these rulers are wicked men and women who hate the church — the very kind of leaders for whom Timothy and Paul had to pray in the first century. We may not yet live under severe persecution, but for us today it is difficult to pray for authorities who profess to be Christians, even if they are on the wrong side of certain social issues. Nevertheless, we are to ask God to show grace to such people and bring them to faith and repentance, and to curb any evil plans that they might have.
Mostly, we are to pray for an environment in which the church may live peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified lives (1 Tim. 2:2). We must be ready to endure persecution for the cross, but there is nothing particularly glorious in longing for such trouble. Our goal as God’s people should be to have governing authorities who leave the church alone that we might live out the faith openly and win people to Jesus, not rulers who force us to worship underground.